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Highfive In-Room Video Use Growing Like Gangbusters

As I've written previously, video conferencing is at a crossroads in the enterprise. While room system vendors are starting to deliver better quality and improved user experiences at sub-$1,000 prices, they're battling against a host of desktop and mobile video apps for attention.

Enterprise IT managers often find themselves trying to decide between outfitting huddle rooms with video systems or letting users bring the video capability into the rooms with them via their video-enabled devices. As Andrew Davis, senior partner and analyst at Wainhouse Research, told me when I wrote that piece: "You don't need to have a lot of video conferencing rooms if everybody has an iPad, iPhone, or Windows machine and you've given them all video conferencing licenses. ... To the extent that we're all on mobile devices, by and large the conference room is becoming more virtual than it is physical."

After the piece published, I heard from Highfive, a startup pitching the idea of "video conferencing you can actually love." Shan Sinha, CEO and co-founder, wanted to make sure I understood that enterprises don't have to decide between the two trends. In a company blog reacting to my post, he wrote, "Most web conferencing providers have completely ignored or abandoned the conference room as a place for team collaboration, so it's natural to see these trends in conflict with each other. But it doesn't have to be that way."



The Highfive system

Highfive, of course, says it provides the answer -- an affordable, at about $799, high-quality in-room video system plus a cloud-based video service for access from desktops and mobile devices. As described in this video, adding Highfive to a conference room is as easy as connecting the TV monitor to the conferencing system using HDMI, Ethernet, and power cables, and then following quick step-by-step install directions from a Highfive mobile app.


Users can join a meeting by clicking on a Highfive link in email, text message, or calendar invite, and a simple swipe switches the view from the phone to the room TV.

Highfive does seem to be onto something. As reported in Forbes, the startup secured $32 million in Series B funding in March from high-profile VCs and individual investors. The money is a good sign, but perhaps more telling is the rapid growth of Highfive's customer base. Highfive signed on 500 customers in its first quarter of sales, and is on pace to see video call volumes top 1 million minutes a week, Sinha told me in a recent phone interview.

With a team that hails from companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, and Yammer, Highfive is bringing a "more consumer-esque experience to a technology that's been around for a while," Sinha said. No Jitter blogger Phil Edholm, president of PKE Consulting, put it this way in a October 2014 post at Highfive's debut: "In many ways, Highfive is to video conferencing as the original iPhone was to the other smart devices of the time -- limited in some key ways, but with a resulting simplicity that the average user may find opens the door to use."



The Highfive mobile app

At the same time, Wainhouse's Davis wrote for No Jitter that Highfive offers "one of the slickest room video conferencing systems we've seen in a long time."


Of the organizations evaluating Highfive, 80% are companies that haven't deployed video conferencing because systems have been too complex and costly to justify, Sinha said. The remainder of customers are either large enterprises that already have extensive video conferencing investments or companies that have a couple of rooms and, in either case, enabling more video communications among workers is the goal, Sinha said.

Consider the case at Mimeo, an online managed content distribution and printing company that's been using Highfive for about six months. I got the lowdown from Mimeo's VP of marketing, Doug Bohaboy, who uses Highfive extensively to communicate with his growing team, which includes folks in Germany brought on board in a recent acquisition. He credits the Highfive video team meetings with the ability to draw everybody in and make them feel part of the team and culture -- "so much better than being on a bad conference line," he said.

Video collaboration is crucial for an online business like Mimeo, Bohaboy said. "Our customers use our service in an on-demand fashion, which requires us as an organization to quickly gather and pull the right people into meetings easily if we need to solve customer issues."

Audio conferencing, which Mimeo previously relied on, didn't allow the company to create the culture of engagement it was working toward, he said. Video conferencing was basically non-existent, save for a one-off Google Hangout here and there, he added. The difference has been in the conference room integration via Highfive. "That's really driven the adoption for us."

While the marketing department is a big user, the Highfive decision came from IT, who provided Bohaboy with these stats to share on Mimeo's use:

Highfive is seeing usage trends among its other customers, as well, Sinha said. "The metrics have been amazing. Video is becoming part of the everyday workflow."

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